Nerd News Roundup: Best of the Week

07/28/2011 10:28 am ET | Updated Sep 27, 2011

Nerd News Roundup is culled from tech and science blogs, with special attention given to items related to trends in media, politics, and journalism. It is designed for writers who do not have the time or inclination to search for this stuff on their own.

From all corners of the tubes come reports of hackers releasing private data to the world, fueled by the recent LulzSec coverage and “cybersecurity” frenzy. But let’s not forget that huge amounts of private data surface on a regular basis:

  • 8% of Android Apps Are Leaking Private Information

Neil Daswani, who is also the CTO of security firm Dasient, says that they have studied around 10,000 Android apps and have found that 800 of them are leaking private information of the user to an unauthorized server. (digitizor via slashdot)

  • Data Mining the Israeli Population Census

    Fact - the Israeli population census database is freely available for download on the internet. Allow me to reiterate - the personal details of every Israeli citizen are up for grabs to anyone with an internet connection.

    This database contains all the personal data on every citizen in Israel, and by law should not be available to anyone outside of official government offices. This, however, is not the case. Since 2001, the census database has been constantly - illegally - leaked, at least 5 different times. (yuval adam)

  • Court Refuses To Stop Secret Web Spycams From Running On Rental Laptops (tekgoblin via hacker news)
  • The FDA is probably going to regulate “mobile medical apps,” presumably to slow the spread of harmful advice. Certainly an institution as nimble and responsive as the FDA will do great things in this area. (fda via hacker news)

    New Service Sniffs Out Secret Gems From Across Your News Feeds

    The service brings in all your subscribed content from major social networks, then offers a number of different ways to sort what it finds. My favorite is the filter called “Potentially Missed - links from people who don’t share a lot of links.” All of the different sorting options make up a smart system based mostly on thoughtful permutations of publicly available, structured fields of data. (rww)

    Alien life form discovered in China turns out to be hairless monkey (io9)

    Apple Is $50 Billion Away From Becoming The World's Most Valuable Company (mashable)

    Why is the state of Alabama still collecting tax for needy Confederate Civil War vets? (boingboing)

    It’s official: iPhone users have more sex (offtopic via hacker news)

    YouTube to stream Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits (physorg)

    Juxtaposed for your consideration, contradictory (?) views on the U.S. military’s computer skillz:

    Top General: Defense Department IT In “Stone Age”

    ‘It’s crazy, we buy proprietary [and] we don’t understand what it is we’re buying into,’ he said. ‘It works great for an application, and then you come to conflict and you spend the rest of your time trying to modify it to actually do what it should do.’ (computerworld via slashdot)

  • Inside Darpa's Secret Afghan Spy Machine

    Darpa technologists pitch Nexus 7 as far-reaching and revolutionary, culling "hundreds of existing data sources from multiple Agencies and Services" to produce "population-centric, cultural intelligence."

    They boast of Nexus 7's ties to special operations and to America's most secretive surveillance groups, and its sophisticated tools to "perform automated cross-correlation and analysis of massive, sparse datasets -- recomputing stability indicators within minutes of new data updates." (wired)


    Use a Cart Instead of a Basket for Healthier Choices at the Grocery Store

    a new study suggests that using a cart can make people three times more likely to select healthier foods, because of the mind-body relationship. (lifehacker)

  • How the Internet Changes What We Remember

    Instead of remembering facts and information, we have started to remember where we can find the information online. (lifehacker)

  • When the brain decides

    Every day we have to make decisions that involve evaluating or choosing between options, often without much information to go on. So how we do it? How do we prevent analysis paralysis?

    Psychological theory suggests that we often rely on the recognition heuristic, choosing the option that we recognize over the one we don't. (medicalxpress)


    Good news, everyone! The values of the most basic rules of the universe, the mathematical “constants” that describe the interplay of all particles, have been updated. Again. (via physorg)

  • Wake cloaking simulated in lab - objects move through water without leaving a trace

    Metamaterials researchers Yaroslav Urzhumov and David Smith, working at Duke University have built a simulation of an object that can move through water without leaving a trace and claim it’s a concept that could be built and used in the real world provided more research is done. (physorg)

  • 80 percent of world climate data are not computerized (medicalxpress)

  • Researcher Makes a Career Developing Cocaine Vaccine, But Pharmaceutical Companies Won't Produce It

    It turns out that during the Phase I clinical trial, which successfully helped some of the volunteers who were inoculated build immunities to cocaine, some still tried to get their fix […] Researchers found some of the volunteers had 10 times the amount of cocaine in their blood compared to before, and a few of them admitting that they had gone broke trying to buy more. However, a number of volunteers soon realized that cocaine just wasn't going to give them the high they wanted anymore and stopped using.

    A Phase III trial for the cocaine vaccine cannot proceed unless a company's supports it. But the dilemma is clear: What would happen if the media got wind that inoculated drug users were buying even more coke than before. It would be a public relations nightmare for any business. (singularityhub via hacker news)

  • Science gifts humanity a robotic tentacle, bringing us one step closer to creating those squid things from The Matrix. (via dvice)


    Study shows that low-information voters are most likely to be swayed by candidates’ appearances

    a new study by MIT political scientists adds to this body of research by detailing which types of citizens are most influenced by candidate appearances, and why: The tendency is most prevalent among low-information voters who watch a lot of television. (physorg)

  • The revolving door between government regulators and the regulated keeps spinning: The head of ICANN, the organization regulating domain names, was just appointed to run the only publicly-traded domain name company. (via proactiveinvestorsuk via hacker news)

  • Study shows voter turnout can be increased with simple word change

    doing nothing more than changing the word “vote,” to “voter,” on a survey, Bryan et al, have demonstrated that it’s possible to increase voter turnout in real-world elections. (physorg)

  • Social media study: Conservatives were top tweeters in 2010 elections

    The study zeroed in on the posts of self-identified Tea Party members. Despite its grassroots nature, the Tea Party appeared to be running an organized campaign. Not only did members tweet more often, averaging 901 tweets during the study period, they exhibited behaviors suggesting a stronger community than their counterparts. (physorg)

  • Pew study examines emergence of non-profit news

    More than half of emerging nonprofit news sites produce content with a clear ideological bent, according to a study released Monday by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. (physorg)


    Use your awesome tech powers to help save journalism

    In case no one has seen me posting this link recently, I thought I would post it again. Here's now an updated list of 20+ web developer jobs open at newspapers. (andymboyle)

  • Is Pre-Cognition Possible & Can It Beat Twitter on Breaking News?

    Eventually the time between things happening and their entering the cycle of news recycling that goes on for days or weeks will drop from the 10 or 20 minutes that it’s at right now…to zero. That’s a losing proposition for competitive news gatherers, the company says, and will be replaced in the future by an endless competition to get better at predicting the news earlier and earlier, before it happens (rww)

  • CNN streaming 24 hours a day to browsers, iPad and iPhone apps (tuaw)